Karen McGrane

The user experience doesn’t stop at the nav


If you’re reading this blog, it’s likely because you A) know me and want to hear what I have to say about content strategy and user experience design or B) found it by searching for some variant of “hearing aid reviews” on Google. Never let it be said that I don’t understand my audience. But until now, I haven’t been able to speak to the interests of both audiences at once. UNTIL NOW.

I’m doing some research to prepare for an upcoming talk at Busan Design Week in Korea, and found myself at the HTC website. Imagine my surprise when I see this:

Hearing aid compatibility! In the nav! This company is so committed to making hearing aid compatible products that they want to market this capability on the homepage of their website.

Now, if you’ve ever bought a hearing aid before (and, if I know my audience, I can safely say that half of you hope you will never need to, and the other half are trying to do so right now and it’s the bane of your existence) you know that hearing aids don’t work very well with phones. I have a well-rehearsed routine if I ever have to take a call on my mobile that involves removing my hearing aid and hooking it over my thumb. Also, please never call me. That’s why God invented text messaging.

But the promise of having a phone that would work with a hearing aid is a good sales pitch. I’m intrigued. Until I get to this page (click to embiggen):

Um. What?

Here’s my question: Will your phone work with my hearing aid? In no way does this page actually answer my question.

Because I make websites, I know exactly how this happened.

There was a meeting in which everyone agreed that it was important, and valuable, and responsible, that HTC showcase its hearing aid compatibility. Negotiations ensued, and it was decided that Hearing Aid Compatibility would have its very own place in the nav.

Someone set out to make a wireframe for this page. This person was told that there would be some text on the page, and a table of ratings information. This person mocked up a generic page to represent this information (put text here, put table here) and then went about feeling very user-centered and accessible because of the attention given to the disabled.

Someone else (perhaps the engineer or business owner responsible for hearing aid issues) was asked to provide the content. This person knows an awful lot about technical standards for compatibility, but perhaps not much about writing for a reader. The content got populated in the CMS, and everyone felt good about it.

Except me.

No one ever came back to ask if the content that got published actually met the user’s needs. Someone defined a requirement that — in essence — said “have a navigation category for hearing aids.” It didn’t say “ensure that our hearing impaired customers can determine which product will best meet their needs.”

The user experience doesn’t stop at the nav. If the content doesn’t answer the user’s question, you’ve failed.